Center News

World Culture Day

On March 9th, 2018, 119 regional high school students and 16 teachers participated in a special event, World Culture Day sponsored by the Middle East Center along with the South Asia Center and Penn Museum. This popular annual event, formerly known as Asia Day was revamped this year to provide more prominent focus on regional socio-political issues and cultures from Middle East. The day started with a keynote lecture by the Center’s guest speaker, Brahim El Guabli, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Comparative Literature, Princeton University. After keynote, students were separated into smaller groups to experience a guided-Egypt gallery tour and the International Classroom program, an interactive workshop facilitated by a Museum-affiliated Egyptologist. After the catering lunch, Middle East Center’s collaborator, Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture, a local arts-based non-profit organization engaged students in interactive Middle East music performance.

The majority of participants were from the Title I schools from the School District of Philadelphia. They enjoyed this special opportunity to participate in global learning program in a university context. 

The Origins of the Internationalization in Syria's Conflict

On February 27th, 2018, Upenn graduate student Victoria Gilbert gave a lecture at Central High School Philadelphia for a group of high school students. The topic of the lecture was "The Origins and the Internationalization in Syria's Conflict". Over 30 students were in attendance. K-12 teachers in the greater Philadelphia area can request a PhD student from Penn to provide a lecture on a Middle Eastern topic. The Middle East Center will organize the lecture and pay a speaker fee to the PhD student. For more information on the Speakers' bureau visit the Resources tab on the Middle East Center website.

PACIE-Penn Middle East Center "Educating the Educator" Workshop, Nationalism and Identity in the Era of Colonialism

On February 24th, 2018, the Penn Middle East Center and the Pennsylvania Council for International Education (PACIE) collaborated to host the "PACIE-Penn Middle East Center "Educating the Educator" Workshop, Nationalism and Identity in the Era of Colonialism" Teacher Training Workshop. The objective of the workshop was to facilitate the teaching at the high school level of complex issues such as Colonialism, Nationalism and identity. By offering lectures and hands-on interactive modules which incorporate both maps and facilitated discussions on nationalism and identity the hope is that the teachers will find useful tools that they can incorporate in their teaching. 

Curricula generated from this workshop was be posted on the PA Department of Education’s SAS portal and tagged as meeting global education goals and skills. ACT-48 Credit was available to educators.

Congratulations Gareth Smail! This former FLAS recipient has received a well-earned spotlight on our FLAS page. We wish you all the best.

Read his bio by going to, where you can also learn about the FLAS fellowship and how to apply.

Palumbo Program

On Friday, February 7th, 134 students and 15 teachers from Academy at Palumbo High School ventured to the Penn Museum to take part in the International Classroom Program, a collaboration with the UPenn South Asia Center, the Middle East Center, and other university centers and globally focused non-profit organizations. The workshop, which teaches students about world cultures both past and present, incorporated key 21st Century Skills such as world languages, intercultural communication, and appreciation for cultural diversity. After a presentation and museum tour, students from Palumbo had a chance to see a performance by and hear from the International Classroom program presenter, Madhu Bora, a classically trained Indian dancer. Despite a snowy morning and Eagles Parade preparations, the event was a huge success.

The Daily Pennsylvanian, Penn's student newspaper, welcomes Dr. John Ghazvinian as the Middle East Center's new Associate Director.

Among continuing the new, exciting programming of the Center, Dr. Ghazvinian is particularly looking forward to encouraging more Penn students to major or minor in Modern Middle Eastern Studies, one of the "most relevant majors you could have in the current atmosphere." 

Read the full article below!

Ancient Middle East: Using STEM to Analyze the Past

On January 27th, 2018, the Middle East Center partnered with the Penn Museum to put on a teacher training workshop entitled "Ancient Middle East: Using STEM to Analyze the Past". The goal was to assist teachers in understanding more about how archaeologists use scientific analysis to understand the people of ancient Mesopotamia. It began with an activity to explore unfamiliar objects, then a tour the Artifact Lab with conservator Tessa Alarcan Martin to hear about her preparations for the new Middle East Galleries. Participants heard from Dr. Marie-Claude Boileau of the Center for the Analysis of Archaeological Materials (CAAM), in a talk about her scientific analysis of ancient Middle East ceramics. The day finished with a STEM-focused interactive workshop that examined ceramic slipper coffins from the Mesopotamian city of Nippur. ACT 48 Credits provided for PA Educators.

Junior Model UN Diplomat Program: January 9, January 29 and February 2, 2018

For decades, the Junior United Nations Program organized by the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia has taught regional middle school students how to act as international diplomats, providing several training sessions throughout the spring to culminate in a mock United Nations summit. Middle East Center teamed up with the Penn Museum to support this effort by providing students and teachers with a global education for the start of the program.

New Films Added to the Media Library! 

The Middle East Center adds Tickling Giants, Clash, The House is Black, Tales of Darkness, Turtles Can Fly, Kedi, Before Your Eyes and the Women's Balcony to its Media Library. Please contact the Middle East Center for more information on borrowing these films. 

On Wednesday Dec. 6, Dr. Rayya El Zein, Post-doctoral Fellow at the Center for Advanced Research in Global Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication, held a lecture at the University of Pennsylvania titled "Neoliberal Orientalism". A response was given by Amy Kaplan, Edward W. Kane Professor of English.